In a recent Op-ed piece in the LA Times, columnist Jim Newton reflected on what the city might look like if Homeboy Industries, the Jesuit-founded ministry that provides on-the-job training and counseling to former gang members, was no longer a fixture in the urban area.
“Life without Homeboy would be bleaker, meaner and more expensive in a society already too bleak, too mean and strapped for cash,” says Newton in his column.
Founded at the height of the gang violence that was ripping the city apart in 1992, Jesuit Father Greg Boyle, himself now an icon in the city, started Homeboy Industries to help gang members leave their lives formed on the streets and in prisons and instead learn skills to improve their lives. Offering tattoo removal, counseling former “homies” in drug rehabilitation and mental health, and even providing jobs in its bakery, café and t-shirt store, Homeboy Industries is a haven for former gang members looking to turn their lives around. The ministry helps approximately 12,000 individuals each year learn life skills to lead them away from the streets.
With the economic downturn pulling back donations a few years ago, the concept of a Los Angeles without Homeboy Industries almost became a reality and Fr. Boyle had to canvas all of his contacts and benefactors to help stave off insolvency. Jobs for the homeboys and homegirls are still scare but the program does help keep these former gang members off the streets. “You want people to make the connection between public safety…and giving these people a chance,” Boyle says.
Read more about Homeboy Industries and what it and Fr. Boyle provide to Los Angeles in this column from the LA Times.